While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 31


Macron defends decision not to order third lockdown in France

President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to hold off on a third lockdown on Saturday, telling the public he had faith in their ability to rein in Covid-19 with less severe curbs even as a third wave spreads and the vaccine rollout falters.

From Sunday, France will close it borders to all but essential travel to and from countries outside the European Union, while arrivals from within the bloc will have to show a negative test. Large shopping malls will be shut and police patrols increased to enforce a 6pm curfew.

But Macron has stopped short of ordering a new daytime lockdown, saying he wants to see first if other measures will be enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With 10 per cent of cases now attributable to the more contagious variant first found in Britain, senior medics have recommended a new lockdown, and one opinion poll showed more than three quarters of French people think one is now inevitable. The poll also showed falling public confidence in the government's handling of the crisis.


Russian billionaire says he owns ‘Putin palace’

Billionaire and Vladimir Putin ally Arkady Rotenberg on Saturday said he owns a Black Sea coast property that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says costs over US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) and belongs to the Russian president.

Navalny claims the 17,691 square metre mansion sits on a property 39 times the size of Monaco and features a casino along with a theatre, an underground hockey arena, an aquatic disco and a hookah lounge complete with a pole-dancing stage.

On Saturday, Putin’s former judo partner Rotenberg said the property belonged to him. “I have successfully concluded a deal with some creditors and I became the beneficiary of this site,” Russian news agencies quoted Rotenberg as saying.


Covid-19 face mask painted on giant English chalk figure

British police are searching for the vandal or vandals who painted a Covid-19 face mask on the figure of a mysterious giant carved into a hillside in southern England.

The Long Man of Wilmington, a 71m-high chalk outline holding a white stick in each hand, is protected by law as an ancient monument. Its exact origins are disputed but many archaeologists date it to the Anglo-Saxon or medieval periods.

"Whilst this damage may have been perpetrated for humour or some other reason, the actions that have been taken are unacceptable," said Tom Carter, a sergeant with Sussex Police.


Football: Man City move clear at the top as United held at Arsenal

Manchester City beat bottom club Sheffield United 1-0 to move three points clear of Manchester United who were held to a goalless draw at Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ disappointing campaign continued with a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace but Newcastle United ended their poor run of form with an impressive 2-0 win at Everton.

A ninth-minute goal from Brazilian Gabriel Jesus gave City a 1-0 win over Sheffield United who had delivered the title-chasers a major boost with their midweek win at Manchester United.


Grammy-nominated Scottish pop producer Sophie dies aged 34

Scottish electronic pop producer Sophie has died at the age of 34 in a "terrible accident", the artist's record label said in a statement on Saturday.

The Glasgow-born producer was nominated for a Grammy for her debut studio album in 2019 and collaborated with Madonna and the British singer Charli XCX.

"Tragically, our beautiful Sophie passed away this morning after a terrible accident," the statement from UK music label Transgressive read. "True to her spirituality, she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell."